Impact Publications : MICEBTN-70
Page 28 • MICEBTN - May-June 2018 From the IATA sandwich to seat-back catering.... Forget Norwegian and Wow, the early pioneering airlines broke new ground to make international flight affordable AIRlINE passengers today are spoiled for choice, with a huge range of cabin options ranging from no-frills budget seating to first-class suites with beds and butlers, writes Jack Handley. But while much of today’s focus is on the low end of the market, few of us know much about the early pi- oneers - airlines that launched long before today’s so-called low cost carrier (LCC) ‘revolution’. Most of them faced competi- tion from government-run airlines and gut-wrenching levels of red tape – and yet against all odds, they managed to get their airlines off the ground, even if only for a few years. We’re talking airline names includ- ing Icelandair (still going strong), British Eagle, British Caledonian and Laker Airways, all of which helped create the aviation industry we know today. In the 60s, for example, Icelan- dair’s US passengers nicknamed it the ‘Hippie Express’ as it was popular with young Americans on a budget who were travelling to Was Lawrence Hargrave Australia’s greatest unknown aviation pioneer? AUSTRALIAN Lawrence Hargrave (He’s credited with designing the wing profile used in the Wright Brothers’ ‘first flights’ at Kitty Hawk Beach and inventing the radial rota- ry engine back in 1889) is anything but a household name in his home- land, yet Hargrave’s invention of a compact, smooth-running engine was ingenious in that it rotated the cylinders around a central shaft and drove a propel- ler. his rotary design was used in the world’s major aircraft engines for many years. Professor Rich- ard Threlfall, who established the School of Phys- ics at the Univer- sity of sydney, called Hargrave the “inventor of human flight” and also men- tioned the debt owed to Hargrave by the Wright brothers for his wing design. Hargrave himself successfully lifted off the ground suspended un- der a ‘train’ of four linked box kites at Stanwell Park Beach, north of Wollongong, NSW on 12 November 1894... (a feat I attempted to copy in 1978 as ‘the Flying Scotsman’ when I helped organise the inaugural Fes- tival of the Winds at Bondi Pavilion, Bondi Beach, NSW. Unfortunately, my Bondi box kites used alumini- um frames that were not strong enough for the prevailing winds and they col- lapsed before lift off, probably saving my life.) Other Austral- ians who had an impact on global aviation include Harold Bamberg, a former wartime pilot who formed Eagle Aviation in April 1948 and of course, Bryan Grey, who launched the ill-fated Compass Airlines in the early 1990s. Europe. Its slogan then was “We are the slowest but the lowest” (price) and Board member Sigurdur Helgas- on was referred to by the New York Times as a “low-cost travel pioneer”. And then there was the Cunard steamship Company (yes, that Cunard), which entered the avia- tion market by buying a 60 per cent stake in British Eagle. And let’s not forget Caledonian, Britain’s most-consistently-prof- itable and financially-secure inde- pendent airline of the time, making profits every year – until the UK government ‘encouraged’ a merger without also letting it freely com- pete with BOAC. A BAC 111– Rolls-Royce said Laker’s planes’ engines were the best- maintained of all BAC 111 operators. And of course, there was Laker Airways, which probably introduced more aviation ‘firsts’ than any other airline of the time, including strat- egies that enabled its aircraft to fly further than their manufacturers’ range estimates. Founder sir Fred- die Laker also made multiple failed attempts to gain flying rights to Australia. And there are other airlines and associated aviation businesses that have played vital roles... such as the companies that made and make aircraft (Wikipedia lists about 1500), the International Air Trans- port Association (IATA – who can forget the IATA sandwich?) and the Hargrave (seated) in the parkland behind Stanwell Park beach, NSW, working on his kites with friend James Swain in 1894.